I should’ve done more research although I am glad we went. However, we found out that in the Galapagos “rainy season” means “hot, humid season.” Charlie keeps reminding me that the highlands of Santa Cruz Island are more lush and rainy than the southern coastal town of Puerto Ayora where we stayed. Still, our weather experience was…unpleasant.
Before we ended our 20-month world tour in 2015, Laurel wanted me to assure her that we would go to New Zealand. I didn’t want to fly there from Ireland because it’s a really long flight, and I just wanted to go back to Colorado. So we were going to go to New Zealand for her spring break, but she didn’t want to rush the trip; so we went somewhere closer. We watched the IMAX movie Galapagos at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science a while back and loved it. Thus, Ecuador.
We spent three nights in Quito which was educational. We learned a bit about their government including the presidential election which happened the day we flew back to the US. We stayed in Old Town which has lovely hotels – originally homes built like fortresses – and apartments from the colonial era; and, at 9,350 feet, we were almost enveloped in the nearby cloud forest. It rained a little, but mostly we had great weather. When walking the steps to La Virgen and again to the bell tower of the basilica, we looked out at miles and miles of slums. It seemed wherever we ventured in Quito, a local would tell us to put away our camera (phone) or just get out of the area since it wasn’t safe. We never ventured far from our hotel, so I was surprised by the crime (or warnings thereof).
The neo-Gothic Basilica del Voto Nacional was built in the late 1800’s and includes a bell tower that people can climb after ascending numerous, steep, metal staircases. Charlie stayed at a lower level, but Laurel and I and what seemed like a thousand other people made the trek. There are gargoyles on the sides (not pictured) of the church that represent Galapagos animals.
“Hitherto Shalt Thou Come, but No Further”
We walked most of the way up to La Virgen, but then the neighborhood was looking really sketchy; and I decided we shouldn’t continue. On the way down, we saw a friendly, stenciled sign on the side of a building.
One morning we happened upon a “convent” (monastery) which is now a museum and were given a $3/person (Ecuador uses the US dollar.) tour by a tiny, old woman (a nun?) who spoke only Spanish. Laurel and I understood what she was saying when she told us what century different works of art were from. Other than that…there was a lot of nodding on our part. She showed us two priest/monk bedrooms including this one with a variety of mortification whips.
The woman showed us a painting just before we left that appeared to show St. Francis of Assisi atop a crucifix. I said, “Oh,” thinking I should know what I was looking at. In Catholic tradition, Jesus came down from the San Damiano crucifix hanging in Francis’ church in Assisi and said, “Francis, rebuild my church.” I thought this was something related to that. But no. We later went to a restaurant, Hasta La Vuelta, Señor, in a shopping mall that used to be the archbishop’s palace. The painting and restaurant name all tie together to describe a supposed interaction years ago between Padre Almeida who lived at the monastery and Jesus on the crucifix. It was weird, but I gotta finish this and get dinner ready; so Google “Hasta La Vuelta, Señor.”
The Teleférico to the mountaintop was fun even though it was raining and white with clouds when we got up there. On the ride back down, we saw a farmhouse, cattle, and horses on the steep slope.
The Galapagos were so hot and humid I could hardly stand it. If we had gone later in the year, I think it’s probably pretty decent weather. Live and learn. The islands are the product of volcanic eruptions and have a variety of animals, some of them unique to the island chain, including the Galapagos penguin which we saw two of while wading at the beach of Santiago Island on a day trip. The number of penguins is declining due both to global warming and invasive animal species such as dogs, cats, and rats brought over in the last century. I don’t have an underwater camera, but our tour guide on our second day trip had one and took the photo of the kids snorkeling (I was so proud of Charlie. He did a great job.) and the sea turtle. We saw land tortoises both in Puerto Ayora and in the highlands and marine iguanas which developed the adaptation to blow salt from the water out their noses. The sea lion below (He’s sleeping next to a short wall.) is on the dock where fisherman sell their daily catches in Puerto Ayora; but we saw quite a few, including both times snorkeling.
The airport is on Isla Baltra next to Santa Cruz, so we had to take a bus to a boat to a taxi (pickup truck) to get to our hotel. The airport is “the world’s first ecological airport” which is aided by the tiny size and lack of amenities.
Yay, Colorado! The light snowfall the day after we returned was most welcome.